Asteroid Capsule Back From Outer Space

Johnny Wentzel
NASA space capsule

Despite the warning of almost every sci-fi horror movie, ancient space rocks were intentionally brought to Earth over the weekend, and we have our fingers crossed that they are free of any Alien facehuggers.

What happened: After a seven-year voyage which included a fist bump of the “nearby” asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule touched down in the Utah desert on Sunday with a payload of 250 grams of 4.6-billion-year-old celestial rock and dust.

It’s expected that the sample will provide generations of scientists with insights into the conditions of the early solar system, the formation of the planets, and the make-up of “potentially hazardous” asteroids. Cue Aerosmith.

Asteroid Autumn

While it’s the largest asteroid sample-return mission ever launched, OSIRIS-REx is not the first such mission, and it’s unlikely to be the last.

  • NASA was following in the footsteps of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa missions, which returned less than one gram of asteroid material to Earth in 2010 and another five grams in 2020.

Looking ahead, NASA has coined the next few months as ‘Asteroid Autumn’ with other asteroid-faring missions, such as Psyche and Lucy, expected to hit critical mission milestones by November.

What’s next: Although the sample capsule was ejected and successfully sent back to Earth, the mission is far from over. After a 20-minute pit-stop in Earth’s orbit, the spacecraft was re-routed to another nearby asteroid, Apophis.

With an expected arrival of 2029, Hollywood should be able to crank out another Alien reboot or two by then.